The Best Places to Cruise During the Winter

The Best Places to Cruise During the Winter

When winter starts, are you usually stuck indoors with nothing fun to do? Going on a cruise allows you to explore unique seaside cultures. In the winter months, you can travel to many tropical areas by ship.

Here are our top four picks for snowbirds:

In This Article

1. Tahiti, French Polynesia

With balmy weather year-round, the Islands of Tahiti experience summerlike temperatures and tropical rain from November through March. Located in French Polynesia in the South Pacific, it’s a perfect paradise away from the cold weather and snowstorms.

You should visit Tahiti during the winter for the following:

  • Declining tourism: You can enjoy the atmosphere on less crowded winter cruises around Tahiti rather than traveling among the denser tourism in summer. Starting with September, tourism of Tahiti falls to its lowest point in the winter until January sees a gradual increase in traffic.
  • Summer clothes: Tahiti’s hotter months happen at around the same time as winter and spring in the United States.
  • Food trucks: Vendors gather by caravan in the streets of Papeete to sell delicious Tahitian cuisine until late at night. Try everything from comfort favorites like chow mein, galettes and crepes to local delicacies like poisson cru.
  • Black and white sand beaches: Tahiti has both. Go to Lafayette Beach to bask in the volcanic black sand. For pure white sand, go to La Plage de Maui on the southern shore.
  • Beautiful lagoons: Tropical fish and colorful beds of coral are a sight to see if you go diving or snorkeling. You will also find motus, or groups of small islands formed from the coral.
  • Black pearls: It’s difficult to find these rare pearls in nature, but Tuamotu and Gambier are two of the only locations you can. If you want to buy some, ensure the vendor has an authenticity certificate proving the pearls’ value.
  • Hidden villages: Tahiti Iti, or Tahiti’s eastern peninsula, is a less-traveled area where you can go swimming and hiking away from the crowd. You can find lodging in a village at night and travel by boat to sea caves in the morning.
  • Mountain views: Tahiti’s hiking trails cross archaeological sites and lead to vantage points over volcanic valleys.
  • Waterfalls: The Fautaua Waterfall is a popular attraction. The islands are home to many smaller waterfalls that are in their prime at this time of the year.

Places to See in Tahiti

Tahiti and the surrounding islands are tropical wonders. These are some of the most beautiful and worthwhile places to go:

  • The Water Gardens of Vaipahi: Through the palm forest, find the public gardens of lotuses and aquatic plants among waterfalls.
  • Nuku Hiva: The largest of the Marquesas Islands offers a lot of landmarks to see. The island’s wide canyons and basins are all impressive sights, and you can also spot several large waterfalls, including the Vaipo.
  • Papeete: The capital of Tahiti has street food, local music, souvenir shops and many other attractions. It’s less crowded in the winter, leading to great shopping opportunities.
  • Tetiaroa: This atoll was once used as a getaway location by Tahitian royalty, and several of the marae, or temples, are still standing. Here you can discover the little-known history of a faraway land.
  • Rangiroa: This larger atoll is part of the Tuamotu archipelago. You can go snorkeling or scuba diving here for a close view of the tropical aquatic life.
  • Rurutu Island: As part of the Austral archipelago, this island is a popular site for spotting humpback whales and also has several caves. Go with a guide if you venture inside a cove or cavern.

2. The Caribbean

With warm temperatures and low humidity, the Caribbean is a pleasant chain of islands to visit on a winter cruise getaway. With a lot of diversity ingrained in the culture, the Caribbean is a multiple-destination spot with something for everyone.

You should visit the Caribbean for:

  • The variety: You will always have something to do or see on around 7,000 islands. In the winter, temperatures stay in the 80s, with lows at night that make sleeping cozy.
  • The food: Local dishes include fresh-caught seafood and a blend of African, Amerindian, European, Chinese and East Asian flavors. Even those who prefer familiar comfort foods are certain to find dishes they like. However, if you have a palate for generously rubbed spices and exotic flavor combinations, the Caribbean delivers.
  • Stingray City: Go on a swim tour with stingrays on a sandbar in the Cayman Islands. Snorkeling in the Caribbean waters is always a lively experience. Depending on which island you’re near, you might encounter dolphins, sea turtles or large coral reefs.
  • The El Yunque National Forest: Hike or tour the Caribbean’s tropical rainforests, like this one in Puerto Rico. Take the trails to see the La Mina waterfall and the lower part of Mount Britton. You can also find ancient petroglyphs here left by the ancestors of the Taíno people.
  • Authentic reggae: Kingston, Jamaica, is where you can hear traditional reggae in its birthplace. Kingston is also a beautiful location for sightseeing. Its harbor overlooks the Palisadoes, a narrow peninsula, and the mist-shrouded Blue Mountains.
  • The festivals: Visit the Caribbean islands at the right time of the year, and you can enjoy good food and drinks with dancing, music and costumes. The St. Croix Crucian Christmas Carnival is one example.

Places to See in the Caribbean

Places to See in the Caribbean

Highlighting the best cruises to island getaways hardly does the Caribbean justice. Each island has its own subcultures, and all are worth visiting. Here is a short list of Caribbean Islands you can stop at on a winter cruise:

  • Anguilla: Festive season occurs during the winter here, bringing live music, fireworks, fire dancers and celebrity yachts. The island and its accompanying islets are beautiful at all times of the year. Anguilla’s long beaches and pristine waters make it a relaxing place to spend your day.
  • Antigua: With long days and little rainfall, this island is enjoyable to visit in the winter. You will find various entertainment options here, from the family-friendly dining options and beaches to the active nightlife.
  • The U.S. Virgin Islands: A great option if you’re looking forward to seeing white-sand beaches and large, green rainforests, this chain of islands goes through a dry season in the winter. The climate is perfect for snowbirds.
  • Saint Lucia: Home of the Pitons and several volcanic beaches, this island is an exciting place to go sightseeing. Winter through the spring is considered the dry season, bringing sunshine and consistently warm temperatures.
  • Martinique: As part of the Lesser Antilles, one of this French island’s main attractions is Fort-de-France. Here you will find La Savane, a park bordered by shops and cafes.
  • Guadeloupe: This location is a butterfly-shaped archipelago with sugarcane fields and expansive, clean beaches. Inactive volcanoes are hidden in its parkland among the mountains.

3. Costa Rica

This prime location for a tropical retreat in Central America experiences a dry and wet season instead of a true winter. It is near the equator like Southeast Asia and Brazil. The colorful wildlife and lively culture make your visit to this country a unique experience.

You should visit Costa Rica for the following:

  • Volcanoes: Several highly visible volcanoes are scattered across the country. You can get close-up views of many and walk along the bases of a few.
  • Biodiversity: Animals unique to one of the most biodiverse locations on earth include the tawny-chested flycatcher and the red-backed squirrel monkey. The waters are teeming with aquatic life, common and rare. You can also find more species of butterflies gathered here than there exist in North America, and they are active year-round.
  • Ziplines: The first ziplines were set up in Costa Rica. Soaring over the jungle canopy in the Monteverde Cloud Reserve is a special experience. You will see verdant trees and colorful wildlife as you glide from one station to the next.
  • Coffee tours: The volcanic soil is good for coffee plants.You can tour coffee plantations in the highlands and sample a fresh blend.
  • Jet lag-free trip: For North Americans, there would only be a time zone difference of a few hours for vacations to Costa Rica. This makes it easy to adjust to your vacation.
  • Parks: From nature preserves to national parks, Costa Rica has many designated areas for its flora and fauna to flourish. Avoid trespassing in conservation areas while you’re going on tours of the unique landscape.
  • Surfing: Going on a guided surfing lesson is an active way to experience the local culture. The waves are consistent year-round, and local guides offer lessons for groups or one-on-one.

Places to See in Costa Rica

When fantastic nature is everywhere you look, where should you go to enjoy the views? Here are some of the most popular Costa Rican locations with world travelers:

  • Arenal Volcano: This andesitic stratovolcano is northwest of San José, its prominent shape jutting up from the treetops. It was highly active until 2010, when it entered a state of passive dormancy. You can visit the Arenal Volcano in the national park named after it.
  • Corcovado National Park: This misty rainforest is a good place to go bird-watching or spot other tropical wildlife. Bring insect repellant and plenty of water.
  • Guanacaste: The “Gold Coast” of Costa Rica is the ideal destination to enjoy relaxing beaches and parks. You will find golf courses and surfing guides here.
  • Manuel Antonio Park: This small, compact park has beaches, coves and several easy nature trails. It’s perfect for those who want to take in the best of Costa Rica’s natural world without getting lost.
  • Nicoya Peninsula: Home to beach towns and scenic forests, this is a relaxing place to take a sunset stroll.

4. Mexico

Warm, sunny days and comfortably cool nights make Mexico one of the best winter cruise destinations. The rainy season is over by November, right around the time that Mexico’s most beloved holiday festivities begin.

You should go on a winter Mexican cruise for the following:

  • Christmas traditions: Mexico City is an especially festive stop during the Christmas holiday season. There you can enjoy parades, dancing and light shows.
  • Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe: December 12th is when the religious festivities start at Basilica de Guadalupe, a historical site believed to be where the Virgin Mary once visited Juan Diego. Las Posada is a religious festival celebrated with a costume parade.
  • Día de Reyes: Also known as King’s Day or Epiphany, this holiday on January 6th was once when children opened presents in Mexico. Grab some rosca de reyes, the festive sweet, and enjoy the parade.
  • Historical sites: Mexico has several archaeological sites in national parks and elsewhere. Many ancient structures are well-preserved and open to tours, from sophisticated shrines to long-abandoned cities.
  • Hot air balloon rides: Fly in a colorful hot air balloon over the Teotihuacán Valley and look down at the scenery below.
  • The cuisine: Experience the delight of traditional Mexican foods like tacos al pastor and chilaquiles. Mexican breakfasts are large and satisfying. Depending on which port city you visit, you might find street foods like tamales served hot on your way through.
  • Horseback riding: Horseback riding has been a long-running aspect of Mexican culture. You can go trail-riding with a guide in most of the major cities.
  • Hot springs: If you’re coming to Mexico to relax, bathe in the natural springs at one of their many river locations.

Places to See in Mexico

Planning to visit Mexico and wondering where to cruise to in winter? The following areas draw large numbers at all times of the year:

  • Acapulco: With a blue bay and white-sand beaches, this beautiful city has plenty of water activities for adventurous travelers. You can go cliff diving, scuba diving or snorkeling to explore undersea canyons.
  • Chichen Itza: You can explore the famous temple and the underground limestone caverns called cenotes. The sophisticated architecture has stood for over 1,000 years old, and some estimates put it closer to 2,000 years old.
  • Cabo San Lucas: At this resort city onMexico’s Baja California Peninsula, the beaches and nightlife are active. You can ride a camel, make your own authentic tortillas and taste tequila freshly made from cacti.
  • Catalina Island: Go parasailing on the open water, and you might spot a school of dolphins playing in the ocean below or a herd of sea lions basking on the shore.
  • Ensenada: The vineyards are a good stop for sampling wines and cheeses and maybe riding an ATV along the mountain ridges.
  • Tulum: Across from Playa del Carmen, the island of Cozumel is home to an ancient Mayan city. The pyramids and temples are open for guided tours.

Book a Winter Vacation With Windstar Cruises

Instead of staying indoors waiting for spring to bring the temperature up, spend your winter months in a surreally warm climate away from home, wearing shorts and feeling the sun. Winter is a great time to visit a new tropical destination on a cruise. Start researching your next adventure with us, and go on a trip with exotic cultures and cuisines.

Our small ships can visit ports that larger cruise lines cannot dock in. Find your ideal winter cruise experience with us today.

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